Twitter is not the right medium for a complex debate, I’ve discovered. It is near impossible to mount an argument or respond to one in chunks of just 140 characters (or a lot less once more people latch on). So after I tweeted an article from former Australian PM John Howard about gun control in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, I was quickly accosted by a bunch of gun activists.
My own position on guns is clear: I don’t think they should all be banned. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. That said, I’m pleased that semi-automatic weapons are banned in Australia, and don’t see why regular American gun enthusiasts need to carry them.
Certainly, the attitude to guns is very different in Australia than the US. We don’t have a bill of rights that guarantees “the right to bear arms”. Yet, I’m very disturbed by some of the arguments being put my way on this issue. I’m not really sure if the people putting forward these arguments even understood my own position (which I was unable to articulate in just 140 characters), let alone knew what a straw man argument is.
It’s logical that the more dangerous something is, the more regulation it requires. In the case of guns, we might do minimal checks on someone who wants to carry a small handgun, additional checks for a larger gun, or for a semi-automatic (if it’s legal), and further checks again for an RPG. Similar would apply for hazardous substances: from gasoline/petrol to explosives to acid to biological agents.
One argument against banning guns went like this: if we ban guns, we should ban gasoline – that can kill far more people than guns. That sounds like “two wrongs make a right”: because we allow one bad thing (for whatever reason), can cannot disallow anything else that is equally bad.
Another argument is the statistical one. More guns either does or doesn’t correlate with more crime, depending on which study you want to use. Of course each side will commission their own market research to prove their own side. In Australia, I couldn’t find anything conclusive – only this piece which proves my point: the statistics aren’t conclusive!
The final argument really blew me away (just kidding): people need to carry guns that are at least as powerful as the guns that criminals carry, to protect themselves. So if criminals can obtain illegal semi-automatic weapons, citizens should be able to carry similar weapons, so as to “level the playing field”. Sure, criminals carry bad weapons. Does that mean all the law-abiding citizens have to go on an arms race with them? Where does that end?
What is the role of law enforcement here? I assume it’s to catch these criminals, keep our streets safe, and make sure I don’t have to worry about protecting myself. Perhaps this goes to the very core of how Americans understand their second amendment right (and maybe that’s why it makes no sense to me). I certainly don’t want to live in a country where the police are so bad that I only feel safe by carrying a big gun!
I’m happy to have an adult, mature discussion with anyone on these issues. Tweeting sound-bites back and forth almost felt like a mini gun battle, although in the battle of words, tweets are more of a 17 Remington compared to this M2 Browning of a blog piece!